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Je suis en Paris! 8 Things I Learned on Vacation

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Part of the reason I moved to England was so I would be able to more easily travel to other parts of Europe and the world. This week, that dream was realized: I'm in Paris, just a hop, skip, and two-and-a-half hour train ride from my home.

France is about four-fifths the size of Texas, making it the largest western European country, and is, according to a BBC survey, the fourth most popular country in the world. Paris, its largest city, is a dreamscape of curlicue ironwork, grandiose statues, and leafy boulevards, which, especially in the warmer months, tends to smell alternately of baguettes, cheese, and urine (seriously).

We're currently staying in the fabled Montmartre area, once home to bohemian artists, writers, and hangers-on, now home to artists, tourists and aggressive guys who try to coerce you into buying 20 euro string bracelets. For the most part, it's been all picnics by the Seine, falling asleep in the odd museum, eating far too many baguettes, and generally celebrating the old Parisian joie de vivre. I am, however, looking forward to returning home to England, where my red and peeling nose may finally allow me to be accepted as one of their own "“ not having seen the sun in a few months, I, like other English holiday-makers before me, got a little bit too excited about it.

Anyway, I'm taking a brief break from all that baguette-ing and fromage-ing and meandering up quaint streets to offer up a few quick interesting things that I've learned about France (aside from the fact that people here will pee on anything that stands still and a few things that won't).

Also, while on this trip, I've been reading Lucy Wadham's The Secret Life of France, which has been invaluable in compiling this list as well as extremely entertaining.

1. There's a phenomenon in France called "Yoghurt," when Francophone folks sing (loudly) bizarre homophonic versions of English songs, with oftentimes comic results: Queen's "I Want to Break Free" becomes "I Want to Steak Frites." It's like Franglais, but slightly less intelligible.

2. France is the world's leading consumer of psychotropic drugs, whether prescribed by a physician or not; that fact alone is interesting, but consider also that the suppository tends to be the preferred method of medicinal delivery in France. Of course, France has some of the best healthcare in the world, so maybe suppositories and psychotropic drugs are the way to go.

Baby_Bottles_of_Wine_Paris3. The country that birthed the restaurant industry, France is still on the vanguard of strange innovation in eateries. There's Au Refuge des Fondus, a fondue place in Montmarte that serves up wine in baby bottles, complete with the nipples; at Dans Le Noir, you eat entirely in the dark, served by blind waiters; and at Le Tresor, there's a goldfish swimming in the toilet.

4. "Paris Syndrome" is a medically recognized phenomenon, a psychological breakdown that occurs when Japanese tourists travel to Paris and find the city of their imagination is nothing like the reality. So far, I haven't found myself curled in the fetal position and rocking after being yelled at by a waiter, but there's still time.

5. In the aftermath of the French revolution, it was popular to host dinner parties featuring entirely black food: black wine, black eggs, black cakes, black whatevers, sometimes served in funerary inspired dinnerware. And you could bring a live pig to the table. True story.

6. Ever a people who appreciate a good uprising, this recent global recession has prompted a series of "boss-nappings" in France: Workers have literally been kidnapping their bosses or barricading them in their offices to protest real or rumored job cuts.

catacomb7. Perhaps one of the creepiest, although most popular tourist attractions in Paris are the Catacombs, an underground ossuary containing the remains of thousands of Parisians. In the late 17th century, Paris's officials finally decided to dismantle the Les Innocents cemetery, which was so overcrowded with poorly buried bodies that it was actually making the residents of the nearby Les Halles area ill, and to move the bodies to a network of underground mines and tunnels under the city. The bodies, blessed by priests, were conducted to their new home via black-shrouded carts under the cover of night and were then stacked in regular piles underground.

The successful move of Les Innocents opened the floodgates and over the next century, more of Paris's cemeteries would be emptied and the bodies moved underground. In the 19th century, the Inspector General of the catacombs had the idea of placing the bones in decorative designs (hearts, crosses, etc.) to increase tourism. Visitors would walk the winding subterranean paths through the bones armed only with a candle and following a black line painted on the ceiling above. It's been open to the curious public ever since, although only around 200 people are allowed in at a time, to make the two-kilometer trek. Dark, damp and close, the catacombs were perhaps one of the most surreal and coolest things I've seen in a long time.

8. Now, I haven't gone up the Eiffel Tower yet because I'm pretty afraid of heights and while I'm sure the view is lovely, I'm content to look at pictures. And then there's the fact that it moves: The top of the tower actually leans away from the sun, moving as much as 18 centimeters as the metal on the sunny side expands in the heat. In hot weather, it's been known to grow 15 centimeters taller during warm weather. Not much, but too much for me.

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Scott Jarvie
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Design
Optical Illusion Rug Creates a Bottomless Void in Your Floor
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Scott Jarvie

Artist Scott Jarvie doesn’t believe home goods need to be warm and inviting to earn a spot in the house. That’s certainly the case with his mind-bending void rug: When viewed from a certain perspective, the interior design piece inspires feelings of dread rather than comfort.

According to designboom, Jarvie achieved the rug’s bottomless black hole illusion using clever, two-dimensional design elements. To people standing directly over it, the item resembles a shaded crescent moon cupping a flat black circle. But adjust your position, and the simple rug morphs into a stomach-turning void in the middle of your living room floor.

If the circular rug isn’t trippy enough, Jarvie also made a rectangular runner that can turn an entire hallway into an empty pit. Neither rug is something you’d want to forget you own on a midnight trip to the bathroom.

Void rug optical illusion.

Jarvie’s art isn’t limited to floor rugs that trick the eye. The Scotland-based artist’s creative furniture and home decor includes laundry balls, a cling wrap dispenser, and a chair made from 10,000 plastic drinking straws.

Void rug optical illusion.

Void rug optical illusion.

[h/t designboom]

All images courtesy of Scott Jarvie.

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Amazon
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Smart Shopping
This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
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Amazon

As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers (including Amazon) and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

GADGETS, TOYS, AND MEDIA

Funko Pop Television Bob Ross Collectible Figure for $9.99 (list price $10.99)

SanDisk Ultra CZ48 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Transfer Speeds Up To 100MB/s-SDCZ48-032G-UAM46 for $11.99 (list price $19.99)

[Upgraded to 6700mAh] Anker Astro E1 Candy-Bar Sized Ultra Compact Portable Charger, External Battery Power Bank, with High-Speed Charging PowerIQ Technology (Black) for $16.99 (list price $59.99)

Mpow Car Phone Mount,CD Slot Car Phone Holder Universal Car Cradle Mount with Three-Side Grips and One-Touch Design for iPhone 8/8Plus/7/7Plus/6s/6P/5S, Galaxy S5/S6/S7/S8, Google, LG, Huawei and More for $9.99 (list price $23.99)

Solar Charger, 10000mAh Solar Power Bank Portable Battery Pack Cellphone Charger with 2 LED Flashlights, Solar Panel with Compass and Carabiner for IOS and Android Cellphones(Orange) for $23.99 (list price $69.99)

Anker 60W 10-Port USB Wall Charger, PowerPort 10 for iPhone 7 / 6s / Plus, iPad Pro / Air 2 / mini, Galaxy S7 / S6 / Edge / Plus, Note 5 / 4, LG, Nexus, HTC and More for $32.99 (list price $99.99)

Dutch Blitz for $8.96 (list price $12.99)

OontZ Angle 3 PLUS Edition 10W+ Portable Bluetooth Speaker, Richer Bass, 30-Hour Playtime, Dual Proprietary Drivers for Superior Sound, Water Resistant IPX5 Wireless Speaker by Cambridge SoundWorks for $33.99 (list price $89.99)

LEGO Classic Creative Supplement 10693 for $16.19 (list price $19.99)

Cambivo Bluetooth Headphones, Wireless Earbuds w/Noise Cancellation Microphone, IPX7 Waterproof HD Stereo Sweatproof Earphones, for Running, Gym and Workout 10 Hour Battery Headset for $19.99 (list price $49.99)

NEXGADGET Detachable Multi-Port USB Charging Station, 24W 4-Port USB Charging Dock (Gold) for $29.99 (list price $69.99)

KITCHEN

Ado Glo Kitchen Shears - Stainless Steel Multi-Function Kitchen Scissors with Sharp Blade - Professional Poultry Shears for $12.95 (list price $49.99)

TedGem 6 Pack Silicone Stretch Lids, Various Sizes Expandable Durable Reusable Silicone Stretch Wrap, BPA FREE , Heat Resistant, Dishwasher, Microwave and Oven Safe Stretch Lids Covers for $9.98 (list price $19.99)

OMorc Ice Cube Trays 4 Pack, Easy-Release Silicone and Flexible 14-Ice Trays with Spill-Resistant Removable Lid, LFGB Certified & BPA Free, Stackable Durable and Dishwasher Safe for $12.99 (list price $29.99)

Fred UNZIPPED Hand-Blown Glass Bowl for $17.12 (list price $20.00)

MIRA 34 oz Double Wall All Stainless Steel French Press For Coffee or Tea | Insulated Coffee Pot & Maker Keeps Brewed Coffee or Tea Warm for Hours (34 oz French Press with Bonus Long Spoon) for $19.99 (list price $44.99)

Utopia Kitchen Premium Class Stainless-Steel 12 Knife Set with Acrylic Stand for $35.69 (list price $299.99)

GDEALER Waterproof Meat Thermometer Digital Super Fast Instant Read Thermometer BBQ Thermometer with Calibration and Backit Function Cooking Thermometer for Food, Candy, Milk, Tea, BBQ Grill Smokers for $14.99 (list price $33.99)

Emoji Party Wine Charm Set of 12 Funny Unique Emojies Silicone Suction Theme Label Champagne Glass Bottle Mug Glassware Marker Accessories Gift Idea for Women Men Boy Girl kid Happy Birthday for $6.99 (list price $20.99)

SimpleTaste Egg Cooker Egg Steamer Electric Egg Poacher Egg Boiler 7 Egg Capacity for $17.99 (list price $28.99)

The Original GORILLA GRIP (TM) Set of 3 Non-Slip Reversible Cutting Boards, BPA Free, FDA Approved Materials (Set of 3 Boards: Black) for $17.99 (list price $39.99)

Crock-Pot 6 Qt 8-in-1 Multi-Use Express Crock Programmable Slow Cooker, Pressure Cooker, Sauté, and Steamer, Stainless Steel (SCCPPC600-V1) for $67.99 (list price $79.99)

Sistema Klip It Collection Cracker Food Storage Container, Large, 60 Ounce/ 7.5 Cup for $8.70 (list price $12.49)

Icicle Funnel Collapsible Set of 2, Foldable Funnel for Liquid Transfer 100% Food Grade Silicone (Blue & Green) for $5.97 (list price $11.20)

Blendtec TB-621-25 Total Blender Classic with WildSide+ Jar, Black (Certified Refurbished) for $189.99 (list price $224.97)

Kitchen Utensils - 8 Piece Cooking Utensils - Nonstick Utensil Set - Silicone and Stainless Steel Kit - For Pots and Pans - Serving Tongs, Spoon, Spatula Tools, Pasta Server, Ladle, Strainer, Whisk for $24.95 (list price $59.99)

Waiters Corkscrew by HiCoup – Professional Grade Natural Rosewood All-in-one Corkscrew, Bottle Opener and Foil Cutter, the Favoured Choice of Sommeliers, Waiters and Bartenders Around the World for $10.44 (list price $25.95)

Set of 9 Grey Beverage Chilling Stones [Chill Rocks] Whiskey Stones for Whiskey and other Beverages - in Gift Box with Velvet Carrying Pouch - Made of 100% Pure Soapstone - by Quiseen for $10.00 (list price $18.99)

HOME

Printed Blackout Room Darkening Color Block Grommet Curtain Panel 52 inch wide by 84 inch long - Decorative Curtains by Utopia Bedding (Printed Grey) for $21.99 (list price $39.99)

URPOWER Essential Oil Diffuser 130ml Wood Grain Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Oil Diffuser with Adjustable Mist Mode Waterless Auto Shut-off humidifier and 7 Color Changing LED Lights for Home Office Baby for $21.99 (list price $49.99)

Portable Garment Steamers for Clothes, Aicok 200ml High Capacity Handheld Travel Clothes Steamer, 900W Fast-Heat Powerful Fabric Steamer Perfect for Home and Travel, with Brush & Travel Pouch, Black for $25.99 (list price $89.99)

Whitmor Supreme Wide Stacking Shelf, Chrome for $15.35 (list price $32.02)

Mellanni Bed Sheet Set - Brushed Microfiber 1800 Bedding - Wrinkle, Fade, Stain Resistant - Hypoallergenic - 4 Piece (Queen, White) for $19.70 (list price $59.99)

LIHAO 12 Piece Set Rustproof Stainless Steel Shower Curtain Rings Hooks for Bathroom Shower Rod for $5.97 (list price $16.99)

Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle, Guave Coconut Fusion for $17.56 (list price $22.86)

ThermoPro TP55 Digital Hygrometer Indoor Thermometer Humidity Gauge with Jumbo Touchscreen and Backlight Temperature Humidity Monitor for $13.99 (list price $29.99)

TasteLife 105 GSM Deep Pocket Bed Sheet Set Brushed Hypoallergenic Microfiber 1800 Bedding Sheets Wrinkle, Fade, Stain Resistant - 4 Piece(White,Queen) for $14.90 (list price $119.90)

Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip Corded Bagless Handheld Vacuum SD20005RED for $24.99 (list price $29.99)

Body Pillowcase, 100% Cotton, 300 Thread Count, 21x60 Pillow Cover by American Pillowcase, Fits 20 x 54, White for $14.99 (list price $23.96)

StorageManiac 3-tier Folding Water-Resistant Compact Steel Clothes Drying Rack - 22.44x14.57x41.34 - Inches for $29.99 (list price $69.99)

ComfiLife Coccyx Orthopedic Memory Foam Office Chair and Car Seat Cushion for Back Pain and Sciatica Relief (Gray) for $29.95 (list price $59.95)

Nontoxic EVA Shower Curtain Clear, Wimaha Mildew Resistant Anti-Bacterial Shower Curtain Liner Waterproof Water Repellent Shower Liner, 72 x 72, Clear for $15.99 (list price $30.00)

Smart Home Bedding Super Plush Pillow Dust Mite Resistant Down Alternative (Queen/Standard, 2 Pack) for $24.99 (list price $99.99)

LINENSPA Zippered Encasement Waterproof, Dust Mite Proof, Bed Bug Proof Breathable Mattress Protector - Queen Size for $24.99 (list price $104.99)

HEALTH AND BEAUTY

Gillette Fusion Manual Men’s Razor Blade Refills, 12 Count, Mens Razors / Blades for $34.25 (list price $47.99)

Art Naturals Organic Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner Set (2 x 16 Oz) - Sulfate Free - Volumizing & Moisturizing, Gentle on Curly & Color Treated Hair,For Men & Women Infused with Keratin for $26.13 (list price $26.13)

Dead Sea Mud Mask for Face & Body - 100% Natural Spa Quality - Best Pore Reducer & Minimizer to Help Treat Acne , Blackheads & Oily Skin – Tightens Skin for a Visibly Healthier Complexion – 8.8 OZ for $12.95 (list price $36.95)

DUDE Face Wipes, Energizing & Refreshing Scent, Infused with Pro Vitamin B-5 (3 Packs, 30 Wipes per Pack) for $14.37 (list price $17.97)

Philips Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control Sonic Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush, HX6211/30 for $39.95 (list price $69.99)

Bed Head Curls in Check 1875 Watt Diffuser Hair Dryer for $29.99 (list price $34.99)

Qivange Makeup Brushes, Synthetic Foundation Eyeshadow Fan Brushes Set+Sponge Puff(12pcs,Silver) for $8.99 (list price $42.99)

Majestic Pure Argan Oil Shampoo, Offers Vitamin Enriched Gentle Hair Restoration Formula for Daily Use, Sulfate Free, Moroccan Oil & Potent Natural Ingredients, for Men and Women 16 fl. oz for $13.95 (list price $19.95)

ArtNaturals Signature Blend Essential Oils Set - (8 x 10ml) - 100% Pure of The Highest Quality - Therapeutic Grade - Recommended Aromatherapy Gift Set for $18.95 (list price $36.95)

Gillette Venus Comfortglide Women's Razor Blade Refills, White Tea, 6 Count, Womens Razors / Blades for $20.47 (list price $22.49)

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion 12 oz with Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides for Normal to Dry Skin for $10.49 (list price $13.99)

Zyllion ZMA13BK Shiatsu Pillow Massager with Heat for Car, Home, or Office (Black) for $39.95 (list price $79.95)

Equinox International Dental Hygiene Kit - Includes Tarter Scraper/Scaling Instrument, Dental Pick, Dental Sickle, and Mouth Mirror - Professional Surgical Grade Dentist Approved Tools for $8.97 (list price $29.99)

OFFICE, SCHOOL, AND CRAFTS

rOtring Tikky Graphic Fineliner Pens, 0.7mm & 0.5mm & 0.3mm, Black Ink, 3 Count for $11.13 (list price $12.56)

X-ACTO XLR Electric Pencil Sharpener, Gold for $13.94 (list price $16.23)

Oxford Twin Pocket Folders, Letter Size, Gray, 25 per Box (57505) for $11.89 (list price $15.59)

Ohuhu 40 Colors Dual Tips Permanent Marker Pens Art Markers Highlighters with Carrying Case for Drawing Sketching Adult Coloring Highlighting and Underlining for $19.99 (list price $40.00)

Bukey Cable Clips - Self-Adhesive Desk Cable Organizer, Durable Cord Management, Wire Holder, Wire Management System, Pack of 10, Black for $6.99 (list price $14.95)

Avery Economy View Binder with 1-Inch Round Ring, White, Pack Of 4 (19200) for $12.53 (list price $15.99)

OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

Kootek 5 Pack Tactical Mini LED Flashlight Ultra Bright 300 Lumens Handheld Flashlights Adjustable Focus Small for Kids Child Camping Cycling Hiking Emergency Torch Light for $15.99 (list price $19.99)

J5 Tactical Pen - 4 in 1 - Black Ball Point, Emergency Glass Breaker, DNA Collector, Personal Defence Device for $14.95 (list price $29.95)

YJWB Swimming Goggles, Anti-Fog, No Leaking UV Protection, Triathlon Swimming Goggles Men/Women Children Swim Goggles, Grey for $10.65 (list price $18.99)

Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands with Instruction Guide, Carry Bag, EBook and Online Workout Videos, Set of 5 for $10.95 (list price $49.97)

WORX TURBINE 12 Amp Corded Leaf Blower with 110 MPH and 600 CFM Output and Variable Speed Control – WG520 for $54.24 (list price $59.99)

Giantex 2 Pcs Patio Outdoor LoveSeat Coffee Table Set Furniture Bench With Cushion for $133.99 (list price $169.99)

Quik Chair Heavy Duty Folding Camp Chair - Grey for $12.91 (list price $29.99)

BlizeTec Survival Knife: Best 5-in-1 Tactical Pocket Folding Knife with LED Light, Seatbelt Cutter, Glass Breaker & Magnesium Fire Starter for $38.98 (list price $89.99)

Intex Pillow Rest Raised Airbed with Built-in Pillow and Electric Pump, Twin, Bed Height 16.5" for $20.54 (list price $39.99)

LED Camping Lantern, Tent Light With USB cable - Survival Kit for Emergency, Hurricane, Outage for $14.99 (list price $25.99)

TOOLS

Etekcity Lasergrip 1080 Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun -58℉~1022℉ (-50℃~550℃), Yellow and Black for $18.88 (list price $20.99)

URPOWER Motion Sensor Light, 10 LED Bulbs Battery Operated Wireless Motion Nightlight Portable Magnetic Security Closet Light Stick Up Motion Sensor Night Lights for Closets Hallway Stairway(3) for $22.99 (list price $32.99)

TEKTON 5941 Digital Tire Gauge, 100 PSI for $10.79 (list price $11.99)

VERY STRONG Magnetic Wristband & Extended Pick-Up Tool - 10 STRONG Magnets Wrapped Around Wrist - Holds Screws, Bolts, Drill Bits and More - Perfect Gift or Present for Handyman, Fathers or Women. for $9.91 (list price $12.39)

2 PCS IPOW Car Safety Antiskid Hammer Seatbelt Cutter Emergency Class/Window Punch Breaker Auto Rescue Disaster Escape Life-Saving Hammer Tool,Big for $8.39 (list price $13.89)

LE Headlamp LED, 4 Modes Headlight, Battery Powered Helmet Light for Camping, Running, Hiking and Reading, 3 AAA Batteries Included for $7.99 (list price $18.95)

Damaged Screw Extractor and Remover Set by Aisxle,Easily Remove Stripped or Damaged Screws. Made From H.S.S. 4341#, the Hardness Is 62-63hrc,Set of 4 Stripped Screw Removers for $11.88 (list price $39.99)

BLENDX 7mm to 19mm Ratchet Universal Sockets Metric Wrench Power Drill Adapter Set - Professional Repair Tools for $9.49 (list price $15.99)

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